Album Review: “Claiborne Avenue” by Doctor Lo

NEW ORLEANS — Doctor Lo’s latest release, Claiborne Avenue, is a wonderfully constructed piece featuring expertly played acoustic and electric instrumentation which serve to support vocals that sound amazing throughout Lo’s entire vocal range. While the album is mainly rooted in country-styled sounds, there are also elements of rock and Americana.

In its essence, “Grey Green Eyes,” (track one) serves as a great introduction to this record. Although the format of the song is very repetitious, it still held this listener’s attention quite well. Lo is able to execute this by deftly tweaking things here and there with instrumentation. By having various instruments such as violin and mandolin move forward and then retreat, as well as having the vocals swell in certain areas, the artist greatly shows the importance of song structure.

As I continued listening to the album, I was able to find a litany of “easter eggs” that caught my attention. For example, on “Guns and Sharp Swords” (track two), the song opens with an acoustic guitar motif that was quickly identified as “Amazing Grace.” This song’s inclusion into the album served as a sort of foreshadowing to “Kenosha Baby” (track five). The latter song is built around the narrative of the Kenosha Civil Unrest shootings that took place during August of last year. Doctor Lo wears his heart on his sleeve; you can hear the extreme lament, frustration and sorrow in his voice as he recalls these woefully unfortunate and heart-wrenching events in our nation’s history.

By track three, “Claiborne Avenue,” the album really started to pick up. This was the first track on the record to feature full-band instrumentation, as it shifted towards an electric sound. “That Jesus Love” (track four), featured more of the same type of music, while adding in some honky-tonk style of playing. Though there are definitely serious topics abounding in this record, it was refreshing to hear a song that seemed to border on a tongue-in-cheek narrative. Another song that brought humor to the table is “Ship” (track eight), whose entire story compares a relationship to an actual ship.

When artists can write a love song without ever mentioning the word, that’s when you know they’re a damn good songwriter. Doctor Lo displays this level of skill on “You Know Me Best” and “Down at the Fly,” tracks six and nine, respectively. Far and away, these two are my favorite on the album. The former song is fairly straightforward instrumentation-wise until the end of each stanza. Near the end, a measure of 5/4 is added to what would be a straight 4/4 beat. A very interesting songwriting device — Doctor Lo pulls it off and pulls it off so well.

“Just to Be” (track ten), is the closing number on Claiborne Avenue. It outlines the artist’s past with his music, and manages to clearly define his acceptance with who he is as well as where he finds himself in his career. A song that hits hard with a twang of nostalgia, it also breathes into the listener a sense that there’s more to come. A perfect way to end this album.

I could talk about the minutiae of this album for quite some time. Instead of me doing that, why not take a listen to it yourself? For fans of more acoustic and laidback music there’s a whole hell of a lot of material for you to enjoy! You can find all of Doctor Lo’s music on iTunes, or Spotify.

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